To us, Saving Private Ryan is an uplifting movie with a heartbreaking premise. A mother losing almost all of her sons to the war, with one alive and missing, and a troop of Army Rangers fighting from Normandy Beach, through the hellscape of a shell-shocked France to find him. While it may be just a movie to most, it’s based on a true tear-inducing tale originating in the heart of Virginia.
The Bedford Boys, as they’ve come to be known, were a group of army men from the small town of — you guessed it — Bedford, Virginia. They were among the first troops to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
Out of the 30 men who loaded into the ships that morning, only 11 survived.
Much like the mother in Saving Private Ryan, the families had no idea what happened until all of the telegrams started coming in. One operator, Elizabeth Teass, recalls the sadness of the messages.
A drug store employee who usually delivered telegrams took what he could, but there were so many, that many pillars of the community volunteered to help. It was an event unlike any the town had seen, Teass laments, “Everyone’s heart was broken.”
Now, dry your eyes, because there is an uplifting message behind all this sadness. The tragedy that marked Bedford also made it an emblem of patriotism and bravery. The courage of these young men, and the result of their passing, united America in its darkest hours.
It was a horror that many families and towns across the country were facing, and it was one every citizen could relate to. It strengthened the masses. So every time you watch Saving Private Ryan, remember how these men laid down their lives and, in turn, provided inspiration and the will to fight for what we believe in.